School District Leaders 'Excited' About Settlement In Years-Long Discrimination Suit

Sep 11, 2017

Leadership of the Little Rock School District is praising the settlement of a years-long lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in the district.

It has agreed to pay $100,000 in attorneys' fees, and to improve facilities and advanced learning opportunities in schools with majority black student populations.

Supt. Michael Poore said at a press conference Monday that there hasn’t been discrimination under his leadership.

“I think that one of the things that many people wonder is ‘Well, if you’re settling, does that mean you feel guilty?’ I don’t think that’s the case at all," he said.

The district says it will spend $90 million from a second-lien bond as part of the settlement to complete a southwest Little Rock high school, combine J.A. Fair and McClellan high schools and replace Cloverdale Middle School.

The district sought the bonds after a millage increase vote failed in May.

The settlement includes other repairs, like removing graffiti, fixing air conditioning and windows, and providing soap.

The settlement includes other repairs, such as removing graffiti, fixing air conditioning and windows, and providing soap.

"I could not agree more," said Poore about the commitment to make repairs.

"We know there's over  $300 million dollars worth of needs identified under the Fanning Howey study, and we want to tackle that."

The district approved a facilities master plan in 2015 based on recommendations from the Fanning Howey Group consultants. That plan includes $375 million in improvements.

According to the district, the average age of its school buildings is 63 years.

The district is also promising to increase the numbers of students of color in Advanced Placement and Gifted and Talented programs through better advertising.

“We’ve got to expand the opportunity at some of our smaller high schools so they can access courses that they can’t deliver because of the size of the school, so we plan to just simply market and make sure that students and parents are more aware.”

The school district has tried in the past to create pre-AP classes, but data show many students of color in those programs are not moving on to higher-level courses.

The lawsuit was scheduled for trial Wednesday.

Plaintiffs’ attorney state Rep. John Walker (D-Little Rock) did not return requests for comment.

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